New Zealand’s top tennis junior Shona Nakano plans to move to Japan for help
The father of one of New Zealand’s brightest young tennis players, Shona Nakano, has started a fundraising page for his daughter and is even considering changing nationality to Japan for help.
The 17-year-old Nakano won three of the four ITF junior tournaments in New Zealand in January, while she won the New Zealand 18-and-under title at the age of 15.
However, she has received virtually no financial or coaching support from Tennis New Zealand over the years and as she does not come from a wealthy family, her father, Nobby Nakano, says they must consider taking drastic measures to help Shona achieve it. goal of becoming a professional player.
“Shona has to think if she wants to become Japanese for tennis,” Nakano says of her daughter, who was born in Auckland to Japanese parents.
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In 2013 Auckland bred Cameron Norrie changed nationality to Britain due to a lack of support from Tennis NZ, with then High Performance Director Marcel Vos not believing he was enough good for turning professional. Norrie is currently ranked No. 10 in the world.
Shona is ranked 259th in the world, but the financial strain of playing a sport like tennis means she hasn’t been able to travel overseas for tournaments, so it’s unclear how much she is good.
Later this month there are two ITF Junior tournaments in Mornington, Victoria. But while many of New Zealand’s top juniors make the trip across Tasman for this, the Nakano could not afford to send Shona and she has only been able to play in seven ITF Junior tournaments since the start of 2021. .
“If I look at the iTF rankings and see players playing 30 tournaments a year. How do they do that?” Asked Nobby, who works as a gardener.
“I understand that tennis is a sport for the wealthy.
“When it comes to travel, we spend a lot. At one time we drove to Wellington to play and Shona also stayed in backpackers.
“Financially, it’s not easy at all. I set a budget and we’re still juggling how we spend the money, for tournaments or coaching?
“But there is a limit of options, like is she going to Australia, or maybe Japan because we have connections there? But that’s probably it.
In December 2019, Shona defeated Jade Otway in the final of the New Zealand Under 18 Championships. Yet despite the feat, Nobby says he hasn’t heard of Tennis NZ’s high performance director, Simon Rea.
“She was treated like she was a lucky winner,” he said.
“After Shona won the national championships in December, in February there was an ITF women’s tournament in Hamilton.
“Simon phoned me and said she might have a qualifying wildcard. Prior to that, there had been no communication.
“It was a good opportunity, but Vivian (Yang) got a wild card in the main draw, as did Elyse (Tse).”
While those who run the game like to see tennis as a sport for everyone, the reality is that nearly all of New Zealand’s top young players go to private colleges, some of which are homeschooled.
Tennis parents are known to be pushy and fussy when they don’t get what they want for their son or daughter. But Nobby says that because of his Japanese culture, that’s not his style.
“Because I’m Japanese, there’s this hesitation about it, because we don’t do that kind of stuff,” he said.
“When she won the national title, we waited and thought they would think about contacting us. But nothing.
“The Japanese way is to be reserved, not to be there promoting your daughter. I don’t know how good she is, I know in New Zealand she is one of the best players but I thought she might get something because she has won three out of four ITF tournaments here .
Tennis NZ High Performance Director Christophe Lambert did not specifically address Shona’s situation but said they try to help where they can.
“Whenever I get an email or a call from a coach asking for help, we always try to find a solution,” Lambert said.
“I’m not saying we can give millions, because we don’t have the money for that, but we always offer help.
“The problem is, how do we know what the players want to do? I can’t call 20 players and their coaches.
“We have a plan and it has been communicated to the coaches, that we will assist any player who can play in a Grand Slam, we will offer them a tour.
“For some players and I won’t name names, I don’t know if they changed their minds after they said they weren’t going the semi-pro/pro route and school is the thing. most important,” added Lambert. .
“So by doing school and tournaments around that, they’re going to get a good ranking in New Zealand and get a scholarship to college in the United States.
“The players who are really interested, we try to help them. Players who aren’t interested or have changed their minds, I don’t know.
* The Givealittle page for Shona Nakano can be found here.